Wayne Brinda has his wife to thank for giving him the push to start the Prime Stage Theatre Company in 1995. Brinda, had been working for a grant funded company that was facing financial hardship and Wayne’s wife, Connie pointed out that he had always wanted to start his own company—why not do it now? In its twentieth season, the Prime Stage Theatre Company is still going strong. This year’s season will feature the plays: To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, and the exclusive premiere of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Prime Stage Theatre Company has a unique relationship with Pittsburgh’s schools; the company produces plays based on the student reading lists and teacher curriculum. In order for a play to make it to the company’s stage it has to meet the approval of a teacher advisory committee. As demonstrated by this year’s productions, Prime Stage takes on both classic and contemporary work. These upcoming shows, Brinda pointed out, are stories in some way about integrity, either integrity in the face of unjust systems, such as To Kill A Mockingbird or 1984, or integrity in the face of carving out an identity such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Prime Stage has hosted exclusive premieres in the past including a very popular production of The Westing Game. To produce to a work that has never been done before is a process that can typically take up to two years. Brinda first approaches the author of the book he wants to stage as a play. If the author concedes, Brinda then begins negotiations with the author’s agents and attorneys. After a contract is secured, he then goes about finding the right playwright to bring the book to life. Once a play is written it than goes through script readings and additional drafts before it’s ready for Prime Stage’s audience. A Penn State College student who is friends with the book’s author, Stephen Chbosky, wrote the script for The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Currently, Brinda is in talks to acquire the rights to Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory, which is a story about youth, parenting, and coming to grips with one’s traumatic past.
The stories that Prime Stage chooses to tell are challenging. Last year, the company put on A Lesson Before Dying, which is a story of a young black man, who is an innocent bystander to a murder, is sentenced to death. Brinda noted that the play took on special significance in the context of real-world killing of unarmed black men by police officers, and the resulting protests. He added, “We are not afraid of doing things that are provocative.” Brinda finds real joy in his work as Producing Artistic Director. His drive is simple—to get audiences excited about reading. One powerful way to do that is to stage compelling stories. That, he says, is his one and only agenda. He’s not pushing any kind of mindset or political framework. He aims to “focus on the story and let people become affected by it”.
When it comes to thought-provoking, well-produced theater, audience goers have much to look forward to this year. Catch the season’s opener, To Kill a Mockingbird, opening November 4. Followed by 1984 opening March 3, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower opening May 5.
For tickets and more information about Prime Stage, check out their website here.